F1 Rewind: 2012 Spanish Grand Prix

As Formula One prepares for the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, we rewind back to 2012 for a thrilling race weekend around Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona. 

2012 was a crazy season but this Spanish Grand Prix was certainly one of the most craziest races throughout the campaign, complete with a dramatic post race incident. 

 

Practice

Home favourite, Fernando Alonso topped FP1 for Ferrari with a 1m 24.430 from Sebastian Vettel and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi with 0.482s separating the trio. 

Caterham, Force India, HRT and Williams meanwhile gave Alexander Rossi, Jules Bianchi, Dani Clos and Valtteri Bottas FP1 runs in place of Heikki Kovalainen, Paul Di Resta, Narain Karthikeyan and Bruno Senna respectively. 

Bottas would emerge fastest out of the foursome as he set the fifth quickest FP1 time which was only 0.690s slower than Alonso’s time. 

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McLaren’s Jenson Button however showed his hand to top FP2 with a 1m 23.399 from Vettel as Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg ended the session with the third quickest time, with the trio separated by just 0.372s.

Karthikeyan meanwhile was the only driver to not set a time in FP2.

Vettel topped FP3 as Williams’ Pastor Maldonado found himself 0.168s off the German and 0.014s quicker than Kobayashi, with Mark Webber and Sergio Perez rounding out the top five as Lotus’ Romain Grosjean failed to set a time ahead of Qualifying. 

 

Qualifying

Q1 saw several drivers complain about the air pollen creating a dirty track with no drivers venturing out in the opening four minutes, until Di Resta ventured out onto the track with times soon getting set. 

Jenson Button complained of understeer whilst Lewis Hamilton and Maldonado led the timesheets with the Brit emerging fastest come end of Q1. 

Eventually, Senna would find himself eliminated from Q1 in 17th position after spinning on his final lap, ahead of Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov, Kovalainen, Marussia’s Charles Pic and Timo Glock with HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa setting the last valid lap within 107% rule. 

Karthikeyan received permission from stewards to race after his Q1 time of 1m 31.122 was 8.539s slower than Hamilton’s 1m 22.583, consequently putting the HRT outside of the 107% time rule. 

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Q2 saw a couple of surprise exits as Felipe Massa only qualified 16th behind Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne, of whom both finished behind Force India’s Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg as Mark Webber and Button missed out on Q3 in 12th and 11th positions. 

Kobayashi however stopped out on track at the end of Q2 and therefore missed Q3 where the drama kicked off as Hamilton looked set for pole after the first runs. 

Alonso then took pole ahead of Raikkonen but Maldonado produced a stunning lap to take pole by 0.017s from the Spaniard, until Hamilton produced a sensational 1m 21.707 to take pole by 0.578s. 

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McLaren however soon instructed Hamilton to stop his car immediately and it was soon discovered that he hadn’t left one litre of fuel in his tank to provide the FIA a representative sample during post qualifying scrutineering.

Stewards therefore disqualified Hamilton and handed Maldonado a maiden pole position, which would be the first pole by a Venezuelan driver in F1. 

Maldonado was joined on the front row by Alonso with Romain Grosjean, Raikkonen, Perez and Rosberg completing the front three rows. 

Michael Schumacher and Vettel didn’t set times in Q3 but the latter qualified ahead of the seven-time champion on virtue of quicker sector times, with Kobayashi placed ninth on grid after Hamilton’s disqualification. 

 

Race

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Alonso made a mega start in warm conditions to immediately place Maldonado under pressure, with the latter trying to force Alonso to the dirty side but the Spaniard snatched the lead of his home race into Turn One. 

Webber meanwhile made a poor start to slip down behind both Force India cars whilst Grosjean and Perez made contact at Turn Three, leaving the Mexican with a puncture as he limped back to the pits. 

Hamilton had improved to 20th off the line as he drove like a man on a mission with the top ten having pitted for hard tyres by lap nine. 

Four laps later, Schumacher misjudged a move up inside of Senna when braking into Turn One and clattered into the Brazilian to end their race, with Schumacher handed a five grid penalty for Monaco which cost him pole position. 

Maldonado decided to try the undercut on Alonso during the second round of stops with an undercut stop on lap 25 which saw him regain the lead once both Ferrari cars plus Raikkonen pitted.

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Massa and Vettel meanwhile received drive through penalties for ignoring yellow flags at Turn One, as Maldonado battled Alonso and Raikkonen for victory at the front. 

Alonso proceeded to reel Maldonado in and found himself six seconds behind come lap 38, with the Venezuelan then suffering a slow final stop when Williams struggled to change the left-rear wheel which cost him nearly three seconds and almost the race. 

Alonso eventually managed to catch up to Maldonado who opted to preserve his tyres whilst defending from Alonso who eventually dropped off to gift the Venezuelan a maiden F1 victory and Williams’ first win since 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. 

Alonso trailed home 3.195s behind Maldonado with Raikkonen rounding out the podium, ahead of Grosjean, Kobayashi, Vettel and Rosberg who completed the top seven as Lewis Hamilton clinched eighth in front of Button and Hulkenberg after starting at the back. 

 

Post Race

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Alonso’s second-placed finish pulled him level with Sebastian Vettel on 61 points with the German leading on countback. 

Williams meanwhile went from celebrations to chaos within a couple of hours after fuel from Senna’s car via a leaky fuel rig caught alight, with some reports suggesting that KERS system had caused a spark to ignite to cause the fire. 

Black smoke consequently poured out of the garage as Williams mechanics and those of other teams quickly were able to seize control of the fire, despite 31 people suffering injuries with seven taken to hospital but were all released later. 

Williams were lent equipment by rival teams at the next race in Monaco to help them operate whilst damaged equipment were either repaired or replaced, which shows that F1 teams can help each other off track but fight hard on track. 

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